The Miracles of Mary
Bridget Curran, Allen & Unwin
I thoroughly enjoyed this book; being Protestant I find the topic of Mariology fascinating … a little like forbidden territory!
Within our tradition we applaud Mary for being open to God’s plan. When we read of Mary, and of the Annunciation, we speak of her courage, her obedience and her commitment … and leave it pretty much there.
When I lived in Canada, I found visiting the Catholic churches and cathedrals in French Quebec a little like visiting a foreign country. There were statues of Mary everywhere.
I had always thought visiting a church to be like visiting an extended family, yet in some of these churches I felt very much an outsider, missing vital information.
Curran’s book helps fill in some gaps and is broad in scope. Curran writes about 32 places of pilgrimage to Mary, from Sri Lanka to Poland, London to China. I was invited into stories about faith, belief and doubt.
It was also an unsettling read because the majority of the time I felt as though I was an outsider, looking in, perhaps not having the sort of faith that would allow me to see these apparitions of Mary.
Being firmly within the fold of liberal Protestantism, with its “show me the evidence”, looking at chapter and verse, consulting commentaries, I find some of these accounts to be more of a folk/peasant perspective.
Again, this highlights differences in our traditions; for many years within Catholicism the Bible was not read by the laity in the same way as by Protestants; information was given to the congregation by the priests.
I know that I may be sounding like a sceptic, but this is not what I wish to get across. I, too, have been moved by Mary and devotion to her; in the early 1990s I visited Czestochowa, and I was so moved by the icon of Mary and its legends and faith stories, that for several years the icon formed the basis of my potential PhD (now abandoned).
This book is about the faith of ordinary people and the wish for peace. The majority of appearances of Mary bring messages to the community and to the wider world about peace, reconciliation and love.
These are not messages for an individual, but for God’s world.
But … I am left wondering: why doesn’t Mary appear to Protestants? (maybe she does).
I remember asking a Catholic friend about her devotion to Mary. She answered, saying that she prayed to Mary because she knew Mary would understand her, being female. Again, this devotion to Mary may have as much to do with church councils and governance, as with the mother of Jesus.
I enjoyed the book; it was not only a “good read” but also it meant that I had to read with both an open mind and a devotional heart.
The book could be improved in two ways: with better quality paper and by including a map of the Marion sites and shrines. I supplemented my reading by using Peter Mullen’s Shrines of Our Lady, which has maps and photographs.
It would be a useful book to include in an ecumenical study setting.